Kiraitu Murungi tastes defeat for the first time in long-standing political career

Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi during a Council of Governors meeting in Nairobi on December 20, 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

After 30 years of conducting the Meru political orchestra, Kiraitu Murungi has tasted defeat for the first time.

Faith Kawira Mwangaza, the Woman Representative of Meru County, is the competitor who’s handed Murungi his first defeat.

Mwangaza, an independent candidate, got 209,158 votes against Murungi’s 110,850 in the August 9, 2022 gubernatorial race.

Murungi vied on his on his Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) ticket.

This is the second time Kawira Mwangaza is winning an elective seat as an independent candidate.

In 2017, she lost in the Jubilee Party primaries to Florence Kajuju. She, however, defeated Kajuju at the ballot box in the Woman Representative race.

On her first attempt at the gubernatorial contest this year, Mwangaza has floored a political veteran, who had a perfect victory history.

Kiraitu Murungi, 70, was seeking re-election, saying he’d quit politics after serving his second term, or if he loses in the August 9 polls.

“Vote for me one more time and I’ll, thereafter, proceed on retirement, a peaceful one,” he told Meru residents during the campaigns earlier this year.

Murungi was first elected to Parliament in 1992. He contested on Ford-Kenya Party ticket to represent South Imenti Constituency in the National Assembly.

Ever since, he’s been on a long-standing winning streak.

In 1997, he defended his seat on a Democratic Party (DP) ticket.

In the December 2002 general election, he successfully defended his seat on a NARC ticket.

In 2007, he returned to Parliament on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket.

In the March 4, 2013 general election, he won the Meru senatorial seat on the Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) ticket.

In the subsequent August 8, 2017 general election, he ran for Meru governorship on Jubilee Party ticket, defeating the incumbent Peter Munya of the Party of National Unity (PNU).

During his stint as a lawmaker in the Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki governments, Murungi served in various ministerial positions including the ministries of Justice and Energy respectively.

Murungi had mastered the art of political survival, reinvention and positioning. He knew when to jump ship, when to fold a political party and when to forge alliances – all to his advantage.

Were it not for Kawira Mwangaza, he’d have, possibly, retired as a political born-winner.

Some observers say, unlike in the past, this time around he made a wrong political gamble by showing express approval of Raila Odinga’s presidential candidature.

When he realised his “mistake”, though much later, he attempted to correct it by saying that Meru residents were free to choose a presidential candidate of their choice, and that he’d be okay with either a William Ruto or a Raila Odinga presidency.

This costly bet and claims of a not-so-well-managed Meru County condemned his illustrious political career to a first defeat in three decades.